What language & culture barriers look like for third culture kids

Being a third culture kid (TCK) means you are constantly exposed to multiple languages and cultures. In my case, I have to deal with my family’s Chinese roots and at the same time adapt to the American culture here in Boston. It’s honestly a great experience because sometimes you’re getting the best from both worlds, but other times, you’re having trouble communicating with people.

Check out this video made by third culture kids!

I have to admit, my parents know very little about what I do at school. Not that I’m ashamed of telling them what I do, but I feel like they won’t understand due to the way they are brought up. Especially now that I’m more independent, I’m telling them even less. Sometimes they get mad at me for the lack of communication, but really…it’s hard communicating them. In terms of my grandparents and other family members, communication is almost nonexistent, they don’t have a clue about what I’m up to. I remember dating a blonde girl in high school and my grandma was pretty upset about that for a good month because she’s always wanted me to marry a local Chinese girl. I’ve tried to talk to my relatives about what I do, but it’s really discouraging when all they care about is “Simon, are you eating well at school?” or “Are you you dressed warm enough for the weather?” I get that they care about my wellbeing, but sometimes it would be cool if I could talk to them more about who I am as a person.

In terms of coexisting with my friends here in the US, I can pretty much be myself. At the end of the day, I do dress American, speak American English, and I know the culture pretty well. However, there will forever be a culture barrier when my housemates talk about the TV shows, songs, celebrities, family traditions they grew up interacting with. Growing up in China exposed me to the mainstream cultures in the US and around the world, and very little about things that are happening within just the US. For example, basketball is an international American sport, and football on the other hand is very American. As a result, I know a ton about NBA but almost nothing about NFL. However, the past three years in the US have significantly diminished that barrier. I am now able to have a conversation with an average American on almost any topic.

Being an international student who has studied in two very different countries has been the biggest asset of my life. I am proud to embody both cultures.

IMG_6237.jpgMe at a family dinner.



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